I have draped netting over the strawberries in the hope of thwarting the squirrel who made such a pig of himself last year. The original 12 plants - 'Florence', a modern variety from East Malling's endangered Trust for Horticultural Research - are now twice that and share a diminutive 2m-by-3m bed with two rows of peas and a wigwam of cream and lavender sweet peas. I chose to grow 'Florence' simply because it was the tastiest, juiciest little berry I had ever come across.
Juice, its quantity and flavour, is what elevates a strawberry, a mango or a peach from just a sweet fruit into a sublime and sensuous experience. It is this liquid nectar that enables me to recall almost every mouthful of a single peach eaten more than a decade ago; its cool, sweet liquor so welcome in the heat of that Sienna hotel room. And the box of Alphonso mangoes I carried home on the bus from Drummond Street last year whose juice was so golden and honied I ate all six in two days.
You get more juice from warm fruit, so I keep my lemons and limes on the kitchen windowsill. It gets the sun, and in winter, the warmth from the radiator. Yet cold juicy fruit is the most refreshing of all. To get the best of both worlds
I bring grapes, mangoes and papaya to ripeness in a warm room then chill them for two hours before I eat them. There are times when you might want to feel the warm fuzz of a peach against your lips, in which case you could leave it on a sunny windowsill, so that the fruit is not just copious but headily fragrant, too.
Juice is precious enough that I prepare most soft fruit over a bowl, so as not to waste a drop. Anyone who has ever tried to halve a ripe plum will know what I mean. This is essential with mangoes, peaches and pineapple - juice literally pours out when the knife goes in. Even I draw the line at lapping it up off the chopping board. And if I am slicing a peach or a pear I make certain not to do it on a board that has ever seen garlic or onion.
Some fruits have juice that flatters others: limes bring out the shy flavour of papaya, and oranges lift any sort of currant or berry. Passion fruit, halved and squeezed over strawberries, turn up a strawberry's volume like nothing else.
Much of the juice in my house ends up in a glass. It's a pretty perfect morning that starts with a tumbler of mango and orange in the garden. If the weather is less sunny than it might be, then I mix my juice with yogurt, making a thick, velvety smoothie or lassi. If the only yogurt you have is thick Greek, then add a good slug or two of water to the fruit and yogurt.
Anyone who takes their juice seriously will be in hog heaven now that the scarlet fruits of summer are here: watermelon, red currants, raspberries, nectarines, blueberries. Add any of these to a blender and you have a thick purÀe to dilute with mineral water, spoon over ice cream or sponge cake, or stir into whipped cream to give the simplest of fools. If you want to get more complicated, stir the cream and juice into chilled custard. Blueberries and red currants are best cooked with a little water and sugar first, but not so much that it dilutes their tartness.
Now here's a gorgeous pudding that I have never known anyone to refuse: blitz a couple of punnets of raspberries in a blender with just enough mineral water to help the blades turn. Push the purÀe through a sieve (don't skip this, everyone will hate you when the seeds get stuck in their teeth), then pour it over halved, very lightly sweetened strawberries. Just a shake or two of the icing-sugar sifter is enough. Chill for 30 minutes to an hour before spooning into bowls. A dribble of double cream here is absolute heaven, but don't tell anyone I told you.
Strawberries and passion fruit
Buy passion fruit a few days in advance so they have time to wrinkle. I serve this heavily chilled, without cream or anything except the orange-pink juices that collect in the bowl. Serves 4.
4 heavy, slightly wrinkled passion fruit
juice and finely grated zest of a small orange
Cut the berries in half if they are small, quarters if not, then put them in a glass or china bowl. Cut the passion fruit in half and squeeze the juice and seeds over the strawberries. Gently stir in the orange juice and zest. Chill for an hour before serving.
Strawberries with redcurrant juice
The currants deepen the strawberries' flavour, as well as making the most glorious scarlet sauce. Serves 4.
400g red currants
4 level tbsps icing sugar
Rinse the red currants, but don't bother to top and tail them. Put them into a saucepan with 50ml water. Bring gently to the boil then reduce to a simmer, leaving them only until their skins have burst and they give off a deep red juice (about 6 to 8 minutes).
Remove from the heat and tip into a sieve suspended over a bowl. Using a wooden spoon, mash the currants against the side of the sieve until all the juice and flesh is pushed through. Discard the dry mass of seeds and stems, salvaging the purÀe stuck to the underside of the sieve. Stir the icing sugar into the hot red-currant juice until it has dissolved.
Slice the strawberries in half and drop them into the warm juice. Serve at room temperature or chilled (I like them warm over vanilla ice cream).
Mango, ginger and orange juice
the flesh of half a ripe mango
juice of 2 large oranges
a slice of ginger the size of a £1 coin
2 or 3 ice cubes
Slice the mango flesh into the jug of a blender, catching the escaping juice as best you can.
Cut the oranges in half and squeeze them on a citrus press. Pour the juice into the blender jug. Peel the slice of ginger and cut into thin strips. Chuck in the ice. Blitz, adding still mineral water if you prefer a thinner juice. Makes a large glass.
Strawberry and orange juice
A recipe from my juice book Thirst (£12.99, Fourth Estate). Sometimes you make a discovery that is so stonkingly good you can't understand why no one got there before you. Quite the most invigorating, dazzling juice you will ever come across. This is one juice I serve over ice cubes. Enough for 1 medium to large glass.
the juice of two oranges
Remove the green leaves from the strawberries if you wish (they have been used in a healing sense for centuries), then push them through the juicer and top up the glass with orange juice, then pour over ice.